Alex Hornibrook vs. Michigan Pass Defense
It was business as usual for Alex Hornibrook against Nebraska. He made the necessary throws and did not turn the ball over. It was not a perfect performance by any means, but Hornibrook protected the football and provided enough of a passing threat to allow Jonathan Taylor to operate. However, Michigan is a much different animal than Nebraska.
I think the best part of Hornibrook’s performance on Saturday was how he distributed the ball. A.J. Taylor, Danny Davis, and Jake Ferguson all registered three or more catches against Nebraska. The numbers are not staggering, but the distribution could lead to great results down the road. It appears Hornibrook is regaining the chemistry he had with his receivers towards the end of the last year, especially with Danny Davis.
I am a huge believer in Davis and what he can bring to this offense. He has the ability to make difficult catches and can create separation when facing man coverage. The connection of Hornibrook to Davis could be the key to taking the Wisconsin offense to another level.
Hornibrook looks to be getting more comfortable in the pocket. Between the Iowa game and last Saturday, he seems to have a lot more confidence in the offensive line than he did against BYU. Hopefully, Hornibrook’s poise in the pocket is here to stay, because there is certainly pressure on the way courtesy of the Michigan pass rush.
I expect the Michigan front seven to bring pressure from the get-go to make Hornibrook uncomfortable and force him to make reckless throws. How the offensive line handles that pressure early will have an impact on how Hornibrook plays for the entirety of the game. Hornibrook will have to be able to move outside of the pocket and make throws down the field, much like he did in last year’s Orange Bowl.
Michigan’s passing defense is the best in the nation, allowing only 134 yards passing a game. Much of this success can be owed to Michigan’s ability to get to the quarterback, but they have a quality secondary that can shut down opposing receivers. Lavert Hill and David Hill are lock-down corners who give up very little on the outside. There is no doubt you will be seeing these two in the NFL in the near future. Michigan is not afraid to go man coverage across the board, allowing the defense to put more bodies in the box. What makes Michigan’s pass defense even more special is the coverage ability of their linebackers.
Devin Bush is utilized so well in their passing defensive schemes. He can cover running backs and do not be surprised to see him keeping up with tight ends downfield.
There is not much doubt in the fact that Wisconsin’s running attack will not be as successful as it is in most games this Saturday. Michigan is just too talented up front to allow Jonathan Taylor and the running game to enjoy success from start to finish. Alex Hornibrook will have to make big throws. He showed in last year’s matchup that he can make the necessary throws in the third and fourth quarter to pull out a victory. However, that was in the confines of Camp Randall. Playing in the Big House in front of a hostile crowd is a drastically different situation.
Hornibrook cannot afford to turn the ball over in this game. I expect the Badgers’ defense to struggle a bit and give up some points. He will need to put together an Orange Bowl type of performance against a Michigan defense that is one of the best units in college football.